Although characterized by widespread public apathy and record low voter turnout, the 2009 Bundestag election solidified a stable, but fluid five-party system that will likely be a defining feature of German political life for the next generation. The three minor parties each achieved historical bests at the polls with steep losses for the two traditional Volksparteien. Drawing on data from the German Longitudinal Electoral Study (GLES), this article examines the nature of this new five-party system with a closer look at each party's voters in the 2009 election. The analysis shows the breadth and stability of the five-party system—each party draws significant support across all sixteen Länder; and, despite a growing number of swing voters, each party has a core group of committed voters that alone exceeds the 5 percent national electoral threshold. We also find evidence that the increased volatility and fluidity of the party system is structured along the left-right ideological spectrum with the parties divided into two major camps and vote-switching much more likely within the respective camps rather than between them.
Steven Weldon and Andrea Nüsser
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich
This article examines the candidates for the 2009 Bundestag election and asks three questions. First, did German political parties comply with their voluntarily-adopted gender quotas for their electoral lists—both in terms of the numbers of women nominated and their placement on the party list? Second, did parties without gender quotas place female candidates in promising list places? In other words, did quotas exert a “contagion effect“ and spur political groups without quotas to promote women's political careers? Third, what propensity did all parties have to nominate female candidates for direct mandate seats? Did the quotas used for the second vote have a spillover effect onto the first vote, improving women's odds of being nominated for constituency seats? I find that while the German parties generally complied with the gender quotas for their electoral lists, these quotas have had only limited contagion effects on other parties and on the plurality half of the ballot. Gender quotas in their current form have reached their limits in increasing women's representation to the Bundestag. To achieve gender parity, a change in candidate selection procedures, especially for direct mandates, would be required.
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich
Since the adoption of candidate gender quotas, women have always fared better in the “second” or PR tier of Bundestag elections than in the “first” or plurality tier, where quotas do not apply. This gap, however, has been closing. In the 2009 Bundestag election, 27 percent of the major parties' direct mandate candidates were women compared to almost 30 percent in 2013. All parties experienced an increase in the percentage of women among their nominees for direct mandates between 2009 and 2013. Why have the numbers of female candidates for the 299 directly elected Bundestag constituencies been increasing? This increase is puzzling because gender quotas have not been extended to this tier of the electoral system and candidate selection rules have not changed. This article explores five potential mechanisms that may be driving the observed rise in women nominated as constituency candidates. I argue that the main reasons for these increases lie in the advantages female incumbents incur, the openings presented when male incumbents retire, and the diffusion of female candidates across parties and neighboring Wahlkreise after one woman manages to win a direct mandate. I develop these conclusions by comparing candidate nominations and direct mandate winners in the 2009 and 2013 Bundestag elections.
Frank Decker and Jared Sonnicksen
The recent Bundestag election in Germany warrants consideration for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the results are indicative of several trends developing since unification and that will continue to play an important, if not ever increasing role in German politics. These developments include the intensifying fragmentation of the German party system and German voters' growing electoral volatility, both of which are hampering the parties' ability to form government coalitions. In the following article, we distill five fundamental aspects of the election. Building upon this analysis, we explore their meaning as well as potential impact on the German party system and partisan competition, as well as coalition patterns. At the same time, we address the overarching question of whether—and if so, to what extent—German politics is experiencing a trend toward bipolarity between a center-right and left camp and whether such an antagonistic model will be a passing phase or is indicative of a more established five-party system in Germany.
David F. Patton
In the 2009 German federal election, the small parties together captured 43.2 percent of the vote; three small parties boasted a result in the double digits. Four years later, none of the small parties finished above 8.6 percent and only two reentered the Bundestag. Notably, the FDP, one of the original West German parties, dropped out of the federal parliament for the first time. Yet, any talk of catch-all party revival and party system concentration needs qualification. As a group, the small parties received nearly a third of all votes cast—the second highest share in six decades. Those that did not make it into the Bundestag won 15.7 percent, a higher share than in any other federal election. This article examines the positioning of the leading small parties in the 2013 Bundestag election campaign and their respective electoral results; highlights party systemic as well as internal party factors to explain small party performance; reassesses the commonplace classification of small parties by whether there is an established legislative presence or not; and considers the positioning and performance of small parties in the years to come.
William M. Chandler
Is it always the economy, or do external issues sometimes matter,
too? Consistent with the Clinton campaign slogan of 1992, political
scientists generally predict that domestic economic issues are primary
in determining election winners. This proposition, with its several
variants, rests on many years of survey data and analysis that
have consistently indicated that international conditions and foreign
policy rarely, if ever, rate highly in public concerns and therefore
seldom affect election outcomes.
Russell J. Dalton
Free elections are celebrations of the democratic process, and the
Germans celebrated in an unprecedented way on September 27,
1998. After sixteen years of Christian Democratic rule, the public
used its democratic power to change the government. Indeed, for the
first time in the history of the Federal Republic, voters rejected a sitting
chancellor and chose a new government through the ballot box.
Angela Merkel remains arguably the most powerful politician in Europe, now in her third term as chancellor. While she enjoys popularity at home, seen as pragmatic and reliable, she faces numerous outward expectations and pressures that challenge Germany's foreign policy of restraint. Some argue that Germany does not pull its weight in foreign policy, particularly militarily, or at least is reluctant to do so. This view is not only an external one, but also is shared by Germany's leaders—both Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and President Joachim Gauck, among others, have expressed their desire for an increased German role in the world. Many politicians, however, do not see an advantage to focusing on foreign issues in their export-heavy economy. Other challenges, including disillusionment among Germans regarding their tenuous relationship with Russia and damaged trust between the U.S. and Germany as a result of the NSA scandal, will force Merkel to set an agenda that balances domestic concerns with her allies' expectations.
Hermann Schmitt and Andreas M. Wüst
When Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der went public and announced his plan for early elections on the evening of 22 May 2005, the SPD and the Green Party had just lost the state election in North-Rhine West-phalia. It was the last German state ruled by a Red-Green government, which left the federal government without any stable support in the Bundesrat. The chancellor's radical move resulted in early elections that neither the left (SPD and Greens) nor the conservative political camp (CDU/CSU and FDP) was able to win. While the citizens considered the CDU/CSU to be more competent to solve the country's most important problems, unemployment and the economy, the SPD once again presented the preferred chancellor. The new govrnment, build on a grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD, might be able to solve some of the structural problems of the country. While this will be beneficial for Germany as a whole, it will at the same time weaken the major German parties, which are running the risk of becoming politically indistinguishable.
Andreas M. Wüst
This article is about immigrant-origin politicians running for a Bundestag mandate in the 2013 election. Patterns of candidacy, electoral success and failure of the respective candidates and parliamentarians are systematically analyzed. The main finding is that politicians of immigrant origin are serious contenders for seats in the Bundestag, and political parties seem to have quite some interest in their election. It is increasingly the second immigrant generation that is involved politically, and, as the career patterns indicate, it is likely that many of them are going to stay longer in politics. Consequently, a closer look at immigrant-origin candidates and parliamentarians is of merit for both the study of parliamentary representation and of the political integration of immigrants and their descendants.